Vintage photo from Hedgerow Theatre Company of Rose Schulman.

Rose Schulman: On Acting

Vintage photo from Hedgerow Theatre Company of Rose Schulman.
Vintage photo from Hedgerow Theatre Company of Rose Schulman.

Rose Schulman‘s Thoughts on Acting

The art of acting is, at first, a “know thyself” process and it is well to add a know thyself process at the lowest levels of the self; what could be called our true and beautiful self and our chicane and ugly self; our capacity to care and love; our capacity to hate and be jealous and so on. It is finding out how TO BE or another way of saying it, to find A QUALITY OF PRESENCE. Then acting begins. The student is now ready to BECOME or BEHAVE like Ellie Dunn, or Nina Zaretchny, or Hamlet. A skill is on its way when you know why you are doing what you are doing; when and where you are doing what you are doing. And now you are ready to BECOME and BEHAVE and include the last of the processes of the skill: the way, the how, the manner of.

Our enemies in learning these are speed; proceeding to the how first before the groundwork is laid; the imposition of behaviors upon the exterior self. Our friends are good common sense, an affectionate consideration for material sweat and tears were used at the source of their creation; a respect for time in its most realistic sense (that is, a call at 7:25 P. M.) A great director (I forget who) once said that it was well for an actor to be 10 minutes early for any appointment. A respect for space; also in its most realistic sense: “Am I leaving an area just a little bit  better than I found it”?, and above all, an affectionate consideration for mankind. The craftsman actor begins to work with scenes; begins to study relatedness (that is, contact and timing). He perfects his skill up to a point where it is like the precision of the watchmaker

The artist actor. In a sense, at this point the teacher takes a back seat. He can appeal, stimulate and encourage, but it is now up to the actor to say to himself -“I now have the precision of the watchmaker. Dare I include the freedom of the bird?” And he so dares and then we have the artist actor.

It seems like a logical process to learn to act. There is an order, as there is in nature, but actually any one of us can at times be beginners, craftsmen and, upon occasion, artists. In my experience in teaching, I have found that it takes about 12 years to know your business, so cheer up. Meanwhile, be simple, generous and use it if you have it or develop if you don’t, a super-abundance of caring, and you’ll find out that the cares that infest the day will not line your face or bow your shoulders, for the art of make—believe is kind to us, if we give our interest, attention and energy towards learning and daring to pretend to be somebody else.